Town manager resigns over homophobic remarks about his late son amid battle over LGBTQ+ art

Author: Greg Owen

In Littletown, New Hampshire (population 6005), the small town’s select board has been rocked by controversy surrounding public art with LGBTQ+ content.

On Monday night, several residents of the dozens gathered had expected an apology from one of the board members over anti-LGBTQ+ remarks made in a previous, heated meeting. They also expected progress, if not a resolution, on the debate around public art in the community by and about LGBTQ+ people.

They were disappointed.

Rather than contrition from the offending selectman, they lost an ally when Town Manager Jim Gleason stepped down, citing hateful remarks directed at his late son, who was gay. He called the experience painful.

“I’ve been here almost three years, and, yes, I’m an outsider when I came and still the guy from Florida and whatever,” Gleason told New Hampshire Public Radio. “This is a beautiful community. There are some great people in this community that I’ve got to work with.”

The months-long controversy leading to Gleason’s resignation was sparked by debate over public murals with LGBTQ+ content in the North Country town. Select board member Carrie Gendreau characterized the imagery as “an abomination” that promoted a “demonic” pro-LGBTQ+ message.

Those charges led to a rift with the town’s longtime local theatre company, Theatre UP, which was staging a production of the gay musical “La Cage aux Folles.”

Recriminations on both sides escalated and rumors of a “ban” on public art and performance circulated.

Gendreau and a conservative ally on the board, Roger Emerson, were accused of urging a prohibition on all public art of any kind in the town and getting the question put before voters in a referendum. 

Kerri Harrington, co-chair of North Country Pride, said she was shocked the board didn’t step up to apologize for the bigoted language used in the earlier meeting, but conceded the controversy has been difficult to navigate for everyone involved.

A reading by Gendreau to close the meeting didn’t help matters, she said. Several attendees walked out.

“People were angry and sad, and it’s been really rough, it’s not been feeling great around here,” Herrington said. “Now we’re in a predicament because we’re not going to have a town manager.”

Gleason urged all sides to take a step back.

“I will say nowhere in any email from the Board of Selectmen or in public comment did they ever use the word ‘ban,’” Gleason said.

“But when someone says, ‘We need to do something to ensure that this art on these private buildings doesn’t make it onto public property’ – that to me is a ban,” he explained.

“Because the board has two choices: They cannot regulate content, so they either allow it or they don’t.”

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: Greg Owen

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